UK Timber Regulations

The Act

The Timber and Timber Products Placing on the Market Regulations (UKTR) and UK FLEGT Regulations apply in Great Britain (GB) since January 1st 2021. Although the regulation replaces the previously applicable EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), the requirements remain the same as under the EUTR.

Thus, like the EUTR, the UKTR has three key components:

  • It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and products derived from illegally harvested timber on the GB market;
  • It requires the “first placer” of timber products on the GB market to exercise due diligence; and
  • It requires traders who deal in timber products after the first placing to keep records enabling basic traceability of supply chains.

Similar to the EUTR, the UK Timber Regulation covers a wide, but not exhaustive, range of timber and wood products. For the complete product scope, the UK government website refers to the 2019 Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Indonesia and the UK.

The Regulation – due diligence

"Due diligence" in the UKTR context requires operators to undergo a process to minimize their risk of placing illegally harvested products on the UK market. The approach is similar to the EUTR due diligence requirement:

  • Information: The operator must have access to information describing the timber and timber products, country of harvest, species, quantity, details of the supplier and information on compliance with national legislation.
  • Risk assessment: The operator shall assess the risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, based on the information identified during the first step, and taking into account criteria set out in the UKTR.
  • Risk mitigation: When the assessment shows that there is a risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, the operator must mitigate that risk by choosing actions that are robust enough and best suited to each identified risk. Some of the actions taken to mitigate risks could include but are not limited to:
    • obtaining documentation for forest management plans and verifying adherence to the plans;
    • conducting timber analysis to ascertain species and/or origin;
    • on- site supply chain audit;

The Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) is the competent authority for the UKTR. Recognized Monitoring Organizations can provide due diligence systems to operators. The list of currently recognized Monitoring Organizations can be found here.

Products carrying CITES permits or FLEGT licenses are considered legal by default under the UKTR. The UK Government’s dedicated website and the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF) provide further information on the UKTR.

Penalties and Enforcement to Date

The OPSS’s enforcement policy is to promote compliance and enforce the law to maintain protection, fairness and confidence. Minor non-compliances are addressed with a warning letter. Failure to identify species, country of harvest and documents to evidence legality of harvest in the country of origin and/or insufficient risk mitigation leads to Notices of Remedial Action (NRAs). Continued failure to meet these requirements and other critical infractions can lead to prosecution. OPSS periodically publishes information on enforcement action, including UKTR enforcement.

As of September 2021 (i.e., the latest version at the time of writing this entry), the enforcement summary states two Notices of Remedial Action for incomplete or inaccurate due diligence and one conviction of failure to implement due diligence.

For offences related to traceability, record-keeping, obstruction of an inspector, or NRAs, an Operator is liable on summary conviction to a potentially unlimited fine. However, recent convictions have continued to pitch the fine at about £5,000 per offence, the amount to which the fine was capped until 2015.

A study conducted by Forest Trends released during the transition from EUTR to UKTR attests of the UK’s leadership in applying scientific wood identification as part of their enforcement mechanisms but also calls for strengthening enforcement resources and more deterrent penalties.